Just a few minutes from the Maine State House in Augusta is a quiet oasis brimming with plants and trees and lined with shaded walks. The Viles Arboretum has long been a favorite of locals wanting to unwind amid the greenery or spend a day studying ancient apple trees or other exotics.
While it’s renowned for its collections of plants and trees, Viles draws lots of folks who aren’t fans of all things botanical. Some of the best walking trails in the Capital area—six miles of them—wend their way gently through the groves, forests and fields. Dogs are welcome, as long as they’re leashed. Those same trails are open for skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
The grounds and trails are open dawn to dusk, seven days a week.
What is now the 224-acre Arboretum started as a series of farms in the 1830s. A former state hospital bought and consolidated those farms and, for decades, used them for food, water and stone and as a site for programs for patients. The remains of a piggery, a water system and a granite quarry can be spotted during walks.
In 1981, the Arboretum was created on the grounds by the Maine Forest Service. Since then, 20 botanical collections have been added with more to come. For example, you can stroll through the Hosta Garden, the largest collection of the popular plants in Maine; the Governors Grove, a stand of Eastern White Pines, one for each of Maine’s governors; the Heirloom Apple Tree Collection, featuring both Central Asian and Old Maine apples; and the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Garden, featuring plants seen on Maine homesteads during the Revolutionary War and Maine’s Colonial years.
Added to Viles’ natural charms are its artistic ones. The Arboretum includes an Art Trail, an extraordinary sculpture garden that features the work of significant Maine artists including Dan Ucci, Tim Shay and Andreas von Huene. It includes works constructed of steel, granite, quartzite and other materials, all of which are enhanced and enlivened by their placement in the natural world.
From Bangor: 75 Miles
From Lewiston/Auburn: 35 Miles
From Portland: 55 Miles
From Presque Isle: 230 Miles